Nellie May Naylor

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Nellie May Naylor
Born(1885-03-20)March 20, 1885
DiedOctober 5, 1992(1992-10-05) (aged 107)
Burial placeIowa State University Cemetery
NationalityUnited States
Alma materUniversity of Iowa (1908),

Iowa State University (1918),

Columbia University (1923)
OccupationChemistry Professor

Nellie May Naylor (March 20, 1885 – October 5, 1992) was an American chemist and chemistry professor at Iowa State University (then known as lowa State College), teaching between 1908 until 1955. She was only the second woman to hold this job in the Chemistry Department.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Nellie May Naylor was born March 20, 1885, in Clear Lake, Iowa, the daughter of James Sewell Naylor and Mary Gunson Naylor.[2] Her mother Mary Gunson Naylor was English-born.[3] She lives on a farm, and was educated at Clear Lake High School. She went on to college where she earned a B.A. in education in 1908 at State University of lowa (now known as University of lowa),[1][4] and an M.S. in 1918 from lowa State College (now Iowa State University).[1]

Naylor went on to earned her PhD in chemistry at Columbia University in 1923.[1][5] Her doctoral dissertation was titled "Influence of Some Organic Compounds upon the Hydrolysis of Starch by Salivary and Pancreatic Amylases."[6]


Naylor taught public school in her hometown for one year in 1907, before joining the staff at Iowa State University. Naylor published scientific papers in organic chemistry, but she was also interested in how chemistry was taught, especially to undergraduate women. She wrote,

"When a freshman girl comes over to a chemistry class, she perhaps leaves a class in cookery, meal planning, or color and design, which has held her interest because of her familiarity with that work and her sympathetic attitude toward it. Entering her chemistry class, she is bewildered by the array of unrecognized pieces of apparatus and the unfamiliar terms used. Can we wonder at the lack of attention in chemistry class as we begin to discuss the law of multiple proportion or the percentage of iron in certain ores? Yet we can demand that attention if we approach the subject by an explanation of how our grandmothers used iron pots and kettles, black and unattractive, heavy and hard to handle, while all the time in the clay around there was an abundance of aluminum."[7]

A textbook Naylor wrote, Introductory Chemistry with Household Applications (The Century Chemistry Series 1933) was particularly aimed at students in home economics courses, and went through several editions.[8] Naylor retired in 1955,[9] and lived in retirement for another 37 years, until her death in 1992.[citation needed]


Nuclear chemist Darleane C. Hoffman has credited a freshman-year course taught by Nellie May Naylor with inspiring her pursuit of a scientific career.[10] The co-founder of the Hach Company, Kathryn "Kitty" Hach-Darrow, recalls finding similar inspiration in Naylor.[11]

In 1994, Nellie May Naylor was honored with a brick in the "Plaza of Heroines" in front of Catt Hall on the Iowa State University campus in Ames, Iowa.[12] Naylor is buried in the Iowa State University Cemetery in Ames.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Nellie May Naylor". Iowa State University. 2007. Retrieved 2018-11-20.
  2. ^ "Obituary of Mary Gunson Naylor (1854- 1929), of Ames, Iowa: Mrs. Mary G. Naylor Dies Here Sunday". Ames Daily Tribune. 1929-07-01. p. 2. Retrieved 2018-11-20.
  3. ^ "Mrs. Mary G. Naylor Dies Here Sunday," Ames Daily Tribune (July 1, 1929): 2. via open access
  4. ^ The University Catalogue of the State University of Iowa for Calendar 1908-1909. Iowa City, Iowa: State University of Iowa. 1909. pp. 530, 537 – via Google Book.
  5. ^ Nellie May Naylor, "Vita," ""Influence of Some Organic Compounds upon the Hydrolysis of Starch by Salivary and Pancreatic Amylases" (Columbia University 1922) [1]
  6. ^ Nellie May Naylor, ""Influence of Some Organic Compounds upon the Hydrolysis of Starch by Salivary and Pancreatic Amylases" (Columbia University 1922) [2]
  7. ^ Nellie M. Naylor, "Inorganic Chemistry for Home Economics Classes," Journal of Chemical Education 3(10)(October 1926): 1114.
  8. ^ Nellie May Naylor, Introductory Chemistry with Household Applications (Century Chemistry Series 1933)
  9. ^ "ISC Staff Resignations are Listed," Ames Daily Tribune (June 29, 1955): 9. via open access
  10. ^ "Darleane Hoffman: Adventures in the Nature of Matter," Catalyst Magazine (February 2012) [3]
  11. ^ "Clifford C. Hach and Kathryn Hach-Darrow". Chemical Heritage Foundation. Archived from the original on July 12, 2016. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
  12. ^ "Nellie May Naylor: Plaza of Heroines". Plaza of Heroines. Retrieved 2019-06-28.
  13. ^ "Nellie M. Naylor (1885-1992) - Find A Grave..."

External links[edit]